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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Joyce, Anthony Walter (1946–1980)

by Paul Murphy

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Anthony Walter Joyce (1946-1980), journalist, was born on 9 August 1946 at Lambeth, London, son of Walter Henry Joyce, custodian of enemy property and later branch-manager of an insurance company, and his wife Winifred Maud, née Warboys. Educated at Haberdashers' Aske's School (which moved from Hampstead to Elstree, Hertfordshire), Tony studied modern history at Magdalen College, Oxford (B.A., M.A., 1980). He emigrated to Australia in 1968, performed administrative work on a sorghum project in the Northern Territory and became a production-assistant with a number of film companies. In March 1969 the Australian Broadcasting Commission appointed him a specialist trainee in the talks department, Sydney, where he gained experience in radio with the current-affairs programmes, 'A.M.' and 'P.M.'.

At St John the Baptist Church, Harbord, on 8 November 1969 Joyce married with Catholic rites Monica Eileen Mooney, a production assistant. In 1970 he was sent to Rockhampton, Queensland, for some months as talks officer, and in 1971 to Brisbane to work on the television current-affairs programme, 'This Day Tonight'. He joined the reporting staff of 'T.D.T.' in Sydney in September. His duties included presenting, producing, interviewing and directing; he was promoted senior reporter in May 1972.

The A.B.C. sent Joyce to Singapore as an overseas correspondent in 1975. He flew to Saigon in April and was one of the last reporters to leave before the city fell on the 30th to forces of the Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam. Travelling extensively in South and South East Asia, he covered the state of emergency in India (1975-77) and military coups d'etat in Thailand (October 1976 and October 1977), and filed stories on the Vietnamese boat people. In 1978 he was one of the first Australian journalists allowed back into Vietnam. While there, he made a television documentary.

In March 1979 Joyce was posted to London. His 'beat' included Africa, and on 21 November he arrived in Lusaka to report on the escalating conflict between Zambia and Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. With his cameraman Derek McKendry, he travelled some 35 miles (56 km) to film Chongwe Bridge which had been destroyed by Rhodesian commandos. Zambian soldiers arrested the two of them and placed them in a police car. A man, thought to be a political officer with the militia, raised his pistol and shot Joyce in the head. Joyce was flown to London, but never regained consciousness. Survived by his wife and son, he died on 3 February 1980 in St Bartholomew's Hospital and was cremated with the rites of the Church of England. He was posthumously awarded a Media Peace Prize (1980) by the United Nations Association of Australia.

Joyce was a talented and accomplished journalist, admired by his peers for his integrity and high professional standards, and loved for his considerable wit and humour. A thoughtful and compassionate observer of the human condition, including its misery, deprivation, cruelty and hopelessness, he was a humanist and a humanitarian. His experiences made him a realist and a fatalist. His death was an instance of a journalist whose luck ran out while he was engaged in work for which he cared passionately.

Select Bibliography

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 5 Feb 1980
  • Age (Melbourne), 7 Nov 1981
  • ABC Document Archives, Sydney
  • private information.

Citation details

Paul Murphy, 'Joyce, Anthony Walter (1946–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 31 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

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